You will be asked to feed your baby as soon as possible after the birth – ideally within half an hour – and then every 2-3 hours until your baby’s pre-feed glucose levels reach a level that your care team are happy with.
If your baby’s readings are below the healthy level on two checks in a row, or if they are having problems feeding, they will need to be tube fed or be given glucose through a drip. If they show signs of hypoglycaemia, they will be put on a glucose drip immediately.
Breastfeeding is the recommended way of feeding your baby. Diabetes in itself will not have any effect on your ability to breastfeed your baby. If you are able to breastfeed, it can have a range of benefits for your baby, such as reducing their chances of being hospitalised due to diarrhoea, vomiting or chest or ear infections. On a practical level, it avoids the need to make up feeds and sterilise bottles.
'I breastfed and I was really successful at that, I was very pleased with myself. I breast fed exclusively for six months, so I didn’t give her any food at all for six months.' Zoe, mum of one
Effect of breastfeeding on glucose levels
If you are breastfeeding, it will have some effects on your blood glucose levels. You may find that your glucose levels drop quickly while you are feeding, and afterwards. Test your levels regularly and reduce your insulin dose if your levels are low. Make sure you have healthy snacks to prevent hypos, as well as a glass of water to stay hydrated. Your team should take breastfeeding into account when discussing your insulin dosage with you.
If you are unable to breastfeed for a period of time but would like to return to it – for example, if your baby is receiving medical treatment – your team might suggest that you express your milk to make sure that your body keeps producing the same amount of milk. Many women find this quite tricky, so do ask your midwives for support.
For the first few days you will produce small amounts of colostrum – a thick substance that is highly nutritious. This is easiest to express by hand and needs to be stored in syringes labelled with your name
After the colostrum your ‘true’ milk comes in. Pay particular attention to your levels when your milk comes in, as you are at high risk of a hypo during this time.
At this point you can express using a breast pump if you prefer. Some women find this difficult so, again, talk to your midwives if you need extra support, look for local breastfeeding support organisations and there are some national organisations below:
Freephone helpline for childcare information.
Help and information for mums who want to breastfeed.